On the Path Toward Independence

The German Bundeswehr must terminate its failed operation in Mali ahead of schedule. The quest for independence from the West is gaining momentum in Mail and in neighboring Burkina Faso.

BAMAKO/OUAGADOUGOU/BERLIN (Own report) – The German Bundeswehr must terminate its failed operation in Mali ahead of schedule and withdraw from that West African country by December 31. This is the consequence of last Friday’s UN Security Council’s decision to not extend the mandate of the UN MINUSMA blue helmet force. The precipitated withdrawal is also a setback for the German Foreign Ministry. Minister Annalena Baerbock had previously pushed through a decision that the Bundeswehr would remain in Mali until the end of May 2024, to have more time to counter Russia’s influence and maintain a German presence in that country during the elections scheduled for February 2024. The military government in Bamako had demanded MINUSMAs withdrawal and is now seriously pursuing its attempt to defeat the insurgencies in the country on their own – supported by arms supplies, particularly from Russia and China and with the help of a certain number of Russian mercenaries. Neighboring Burkina Faso, whose government has also expelled French troops from the country, is taking a similar approach. It is also seeking autonomy – without the assistance of Russian mercenaries. The quest for independence from the former colonial powers is gaining momentum.

Withdrawal by December 31

Last Friday the UN Security Council decided to terminate, in all due form, the mandate of the MINUSMA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali) blue-helmet mission, established ten years ago. Contrary to initial plans, it did not extend the mandate that expired Friday (June 30). The military and police units participating in MINUSMA – including those from the Bundeswehr – must therefore immediately begin their withdrawal. Mali’s government has come into conflict with MINUSMA and feels betrayed by the UN’s blue-helmets. At the Security Council on June 16, Mali’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdoulaye Diop demanded that the troops leave “without delay.” The UN body complied and set December 31 as the final dateline for the withdrawal of the last units.[1] Until then, MINUSMA is authorized to take measures providing security for United Nations personnel, facilities and convoys. Until September 30, MINUSMA is authorized to respond to imminent threats of violence to civilians and contribute to the safe civilian-led delivery of humanitarian assistance. All other measures are forbidden with immediate effect.

Setback for the German Foreign Ministry

The Bundeswehr must thus accelerate its withdrawal. Originally the withdrawal was planned for Mai 31, 2024, which is no longer possible. According to reports, the Bundeswehr is worried that it will not be able to withdraw all the equipment used in Mali by December 31. Some of it may be left behind and could fall into the hands of not only the Malian forces but possibly even of Russian mercenaries. Apart from this, the withdrawal – advanced by five months – is also a setback for the German Foreign Ministry. In a dispute with Germany’s Defense Ministry, which has originally called for an earlier withdrawal of its troops, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock obtained the extension of their stay until spring 2024. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[2]) Berlin was seeking to better be able to counter Russia’s growing influence in Mali and to be on hand in that country during its next elections, scheduled for February 2024. Following the Malian foreign minister’s intervention in New York and the UN Security Councils’ decision last Friday, this is no longer possible.

On Your Own in the Future

With MINUSMA’s withdrawal, a completely new phase will begin for Mali. Following the failures of the European military missions (EUTM Mali, Opération Barkhane) and the Western-dominated MINUSMA, the military government in Bamako is attempting to continue the fight in the north and center of the country against the insurgents – often jihadis – on its own, with the support of Russian and Chinese arms deliveries,[3] and with Russian mercenaries. Following “Wagner”-leader Yevgeny Prigozhin’s putsch attempt and the disbanding of his militia in Russia, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has confirmed that the future of contracts signed between various African countries and the Wagner mercenary group was a matter for those governments, who had concluded such agreements.[4] Whether Mali will successfully have more progress than the European powers in its battle against the insurgents under these conditions, remains one of the most important questions for the near future. On June 18, Bamako had the new constitution voted on, which, also included strengthening the position of the president and symbolizing the country’s new independence from the West. With a voter turnout of 40 percent – more than for the last parliamentary elections – it was accepted by an overwhelming majority.[5]

Struggle for Sovereignty

Mali’s striving for independence has long since been having an effect beyond its borders, for example in Burkina Faso. The military in power in Ouagadougou – which, like in Mali, also came to power in a coup d’état – has also expelled the French troops from its country. Saturday, thousands took to the streets of the capital in support of the government in its struggle against France and following Mali’s example, to demand a new constitution. Recently, Prime Minister Apollinaire Joaquim Kyélem de Tambéla had repeatedly stated that the Burkinabe constitution is “a copy of the French constitution” and does not fit Burkina Faso.[6] At Saturday’s demonstration in Ouagadougou, it was said that the country’s total sovereignty must be fully guaranteed, therefore a new constitution is needed.[7] Not only Burkinabe flags, but Malian and Guinean flags were also being waved. Guinea, bordering Mali to the south, currently also has a military government, which, like the governments in Bamako and Ouagadougou, is seeking greater independence from the West. Following a meeting in Ouagadougou in February, the foreign ministers of the three countries announced that they would be cooperating closely in the future in their struggles for independence.[8]

Paths Toward Independence

Burkina Faso is combining its turning away from France and other Western powers, with its simultaneous pivot toward the Non-Western world. Interim President Ibrahim Traoré confirmed in early May that his country, until now, avoids calling on Russian mercenaries and relies solely on its own armed forces. Ouagadougou is, however, receiving greater arms supplies from Russia and now, also from Turkey.[9] The reason recently given by Prime Minister Kyélem de Tambéla is that countries, that traditionally do business in Burkina Faso – a reference to France and other Western nations – regrettably refuse to sell his country weapons to fight the insurgents, while they are placing “enormous stocks of weapons,” at the drop of a hat, at the disposal of other countries, a hint at Western support for Ukraine.[10] With an eye on his trip to Venezuela in May, Kyélem de Tambéla explained, “We have understood that we ... must look for new paths, not only for the survival of our country, but also for the sake of the emancipation of our population.” Burkina Faso will therefore intensify its relations “with Russia, China, Turkey, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela.”


[1] Security Council Terminates Mandate of United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, Unanimously Adopting Resolution 2690 (2023). press.un.org 30.06.2023.

[2] See also The Next Lost War.

[3] See also Streit um MINUSMA.

[4] Future of Wagner contracts up to African states: Russia’s Lavrov. aljazeera.com 30.06.2023.

[5] Morgane Le Cam: Référendum constitutionnel au Mali : le oui l’emporte massivement, l’opposition dénonce « le pire scrutiny de l’histoire ». lemonde.fr 24.06.2023.

[6] Michel Wendpouiré Nana: Au Burkina Faso, Ibrahim Traoré veut-il faire adopter une nouvelle Constitution ? jeuneafrique.com 29.06.2023.

[7] Au Burkina Faso, manifestation de soutien au régime. jeuneafrique.com 01.07.2023.

[8] Mali, Guinée et Burkina Faso : un front commun mais pas de « fédération » à ce stade. rfi.fr 17.02.2023.

[9] Dramane Traoré: Burkina Faso : “la Türkiye et la Russie, alliés stratégiques contre le terrorisme” (Traoré). aa.com.tr 05.05.2023.

[10] Nadoun Coulibaly: Russie, Corée du Nord, Venezuela… Le Burkina Faso d’Ibrahim Traoré se tourney vers de nouveaux allies. jeuneafrique.com 15.06.2023.